What’s the scariest moment of Jordan Peele’s indie thriller flick “Get Out?”
Is it the opening scene, when a young black man is trailed by a strange little sports car as he walks a perfectly manicured suburb one night, only to have the car’s masked driver attack him and drag him into the car?
Or is it when the fate of black protagonist Chris seems all but sealed, with his sinister white girlfriend Rose denying him the car keys (and his escape) as her family closes in on him?
If you ask me, it’s the moment you walk out of the theater and realize that delusional white liberals pose as much of a threat to achieving racial harmony as the skinheads creeping out of their caves, drawn out into the daylight by the hypnotic call to “Make America Great Again.”
In “Get Out,” it’s Chris who finds himself hypnotized – part one of his girlfriend’s family’s twisted process of entrapping black men and women and selling them off as physical hosts for the mental consciousness of rich white buyers.
But before that happens, the family and their friends chitchat with Chris over hors d’oeuvres and tea across the sprawling lawn of a WASPy woodland estate. Every conversation is punctuated by a micro-aggression towards Chris. The phenomenon is subtle at first. In succession, it becomes painfully obvious. Therein Jordan Peele executes his master plan.
The repetition may seem cinematic, contrived, perhaps even unrealistic to the perpetrators – ‘progressive’ white people. To the victims, it’s far from fiction.
Well-meaning white liberals’ failure to acknowledge and admit to this type of racism presents the greatest obstacle to a more equal society.
At least Blackface Halloween costumes, the use of the n-word, and worrisome white glances at black men are conspicuous. It’s racism you can readily identify and try to root out.
The subtleties go unnoticed, or worse, denied. And “when those interactions add up," says Peele, "I’m having a different experience than that person is having. Oh, wow, so, yes, I am being viewed for my skin as the starting point of the interaction. I’m not — I don’t have the privilege of existing at this party in the same way that this white guy has.”
Well-meaning white people can try ‘fixing’ centuries of institutional racism with policy and planning: bussing low-income students into nicer neighborhood schools, offering low-income housing in nicer parts of town, maintaining affirmative action in hiring and admission processes.
At the end of the day, it won’t mean anything until they press pause on their pursuit of the ‘other,’ open up, and own up to their own deep-rooted, well-disguised racist reality.
“I think part of why the way we talk about racism is broken is because we think of racism as this unacceptable evil thing that I couldn’t possibly have within myself,” says Peele.
Hate to break it to you, liberal white America: not even you could escape racism’s clutch, not with your years of watching COPS re-runs and listening to gangsta rap on Top 40 radio. Do yourselves and all the black people you care about a favor: "Get Out" of your own asses, and accept defeat. Admitting is the first step.